Is Research that is Both Causally Adequate and Adequate on the Level of Meaning Possible or Necessary in Business Research? A Critical Analysis of some Methodological Alternatives


  • D.A.L. Coldwell


Causal adequacy, adequacy at the level of meaning, phenomenology, grounded research, imponderable evidence, dialectical triangulation, methodological triangulation, critical realism, evidence-based research, dualism, piecemeal social engineer


There has been a recent resurgence of interest in both statistical methods aimed at generating causally adequate explanations in business research and criticisms of these. Running parallel with this discussion has been critical discussion on the adequacy of such explanations at the level of meaning and specific attempts to address this issue with techniques such as those used in grounded theory. All too often the two methodological approaches have remained separated from each other‑ as a qualitative and a quantitative mainstream in business research. This is partly because of the different skills of the researchers involved andor their different attitudes regarding the validity of the methods used. The Weberian methodological paradigm of explanation that is both causally adequate and adequate at the level of meaning has to some extent been lost sight of since Denzin's triangulated model was put forward as a possible solution in the 70's. However, the issue remains: is causally adequate explanation possible with statistical ‑type analyses and are idiographic techniques such as grounded theory able to capture explanations that are valid at the level of meaning? The paper critiques some older and more recent methods aimed at implementing statistical analyses in generating causally adequate explanation and qualitative techniques aimed at providing explanations that are adequate at the level of meaning. The paper reviews an empirical study aimed at providing such a complete explanation and questions, building on the perspectives of evidence‑based management and critical realism, whether such fully adequate explanations are practically possible or, indeed, fundamentally necessary in generating knowledge that is practically useful for solving specific managerial problems.



1 Jul 2007